How to help students who feel bound by their geography

JP Michel

Many students feel bound by their geography. They can’t, or don’t want to move for work. 

How can career services best serve these students?

There are great reasons for students to want to stay in their hometown. For example, they have established connections and support systems, or they may be interested in making a positive impact in their local community. Some may not have even considered leaving in the first place. 

The majority of incoming students at California State University, Fresno are first generation students, and some come from cultures that prioritize family life. These and other trends result in most students having a preference for working locally. 

There are three ways that career services can help students with this preference:

1) Help them rediscover local opportunities, through a new lens. 

The traditional approach involves reviewing a list of local employers, sorted by size and industry. Unfortunately, this uninformative approach doesn’t appeal to students’ motivation. 

A different approach for career services would be to help them explore the challenges that these companies are trying to solve. This is called using a Challenge mindset. This approach can help students learn that companies that they previously discounted have more to offer than they initially thought. 

For example, many students believe that the food and agriculture industry is only about farming.

In practice, this industry encompasses a wide range of activities, including processing, packaging, distribution, marketing, and research. And it fills a vital purpose: to nourish and sustain a community.  

This makes the challenge of food security an interdisciplinary endeavor that encompasses activities such as policy writing and emerging agricultural practices. 

2) Help students discover why they might want to look beyond 

Instead of trying to convince students to leave their hometowns, career services can share alumni stories of those who have left, and how they benefited from their moves. These stories can serve as powerful examples of the personal and professional benefits available to them.

3) Increase awareness of remote work opportunities 

For some students, moving away is just not possible. For them, remote work could offer new possibilities.  

At the moment, only a fraction of CSU are aware of the remote work opportunities. The market reality is that these opportunities are growing. For most students, looking at remote work opportunities increases their chances that they can work for a company aligned with their values, while working in their preferred geography.

Thank you Mary Willis and Jody Burum, GCDF, CCSP for the important work you are doing!

"We're excited to be using SparkPath's digital Challenge Cards to help our students make informed career decisions that lease to persistence in college and long term career success." 

-Mary Willis 
Director, Career Development Center at California State University, Fresno

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